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Industrial and Systems Engineering

Douglas Wiegmann

Pilot decision-making study takes wing

Associate Professor Doug Wiegmann is studying how pilots think when their heads are in the clouds—yet their feet are firmly on the ground. With a new flight simulator and a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, Wiegmann hopes to reduce small aircraft accidents due to weather shifts. According to Wiegmann, around 10 percent of general aviation accidents are fatal, and a primary factor in fatal accidents is pilots flying in adverse or deteriorating weather.

“The analysis of weather-related accidents suggests there’s a variety of reasons why a pilot would continue to fly into weather that they’re not qualified to fly in,” says Wiegmann. Reasons range from the pilot being unaware of changing forecasts to misdiagnosing weather changes to knowingly risking inclement conditions.

To study pilots’ decision-making process under dynamic conditions, Wiegmann will invite local private pilots to take a ride in the simulator. They will plot a course and check weather forecasts, just as in a real flight, but during the simulation the weather will change. Through scenario recording, eye-movement tracking and observation during the flight as well as discussion with the pilots after the flight, Wiegmann hopes to understand pilots’ thought processes and develop interventions for helping them fly more safely.

“Part of this is figuring out whether pilots realize they’re taking the risk. Do they realize the weather has changed? That the situation they’re flying into is not what they expected it to be?” asks Wiegmann. “Then, if and when they know what they’re doing, what are the cognitive processes underlying their choices? To divert, to go around it, to land and wait for it to pass?”

Wiegmann and two of his graduate students built the simulator by merging top technologies, from the motion-capable seat to the flat-panel monitors, sound system, computer software and hardware. “We’re taking this technology to the next level with its integration,” says Wiegmann.

Collaboration is catalyst for innovation
in printing and packaging

A National Science Foundation-funded collaboration will ensure that Wisconsin remains a national leader in printing and packaging. Led by Professor Raj Veeramani, the Partnership for Innovation (PFI) in Wisconsin’s Packaging and Printing Industry Clusters strives to foster economic growth in the printing and packaging industries by developing new and unique technologies, building human capital, and enhancing “enabling” infrastructure by developing lasting, mutually beneficial relationships among companies, researchers and educators.

PFI collaborators include numerous industrial partners, and faculty, staff and students at UW-Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Waukesha County Technical College. Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Dan van der Weide and Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Marc Anderson are among the UW-Madison researchers. The group will focus on special coatings, printable power systems, and “green” packaging and printing. Special coatings can give packaging superior properties, such as ultraviolet protection, food safety, scratch resistance, humidity control and more. Printable power systems include thin-film batteries and solar cells that, coupled with technology like radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, could push RFID beyond identification and into sensing. And green packaging and printing includes not only exploring sustainable, environmentally conscious materials and methods, but also evaluating the environmental effects of new technologies.

The partnership enables all participants to work together for the good of the state printing and packaging industry, says Veeramani. “This project is allowing us to work together to transform knowledge from our laboratories to a point where it can be commercialized into high-value products and processes,” he says. “It gives us a way to make it compelling for the companies and enhance their competitive advantage. There’s tremendous leverage that’s possible.”

Continuing education:
Web helps long-term-care staff learn on the job

When the the Wisconsin Clinical Resource Center (WCRC) went live in 2007, Wisconsin nursing home staff members gained easy online access to clinical information that daily can improve the way they deliver care.

WCRC is a dynamic web-based resource developed by UW-Madison Center for Health Systems Research and Analysis (CHSRA) faculty and staff, who are renowned for their expertise in long-term care quality. Professor David Zimmerman directs the center.

The site enables staff at care facilities to search quickly for facts, care processes, tools, case studies, guidelines, resources and regulations for clinical issues that commonly arise in nursing homes. “It’s very user-friendly, and it’s really directed at staff on the floor,” says Associate Scientist Allan Stegemann, who led the resource center development team. “People can get in there and get information quickly.”

WCRC currently addresses eight areas, including pain management, pressure ulcers, falls and others, with more in the works. In addition to clinical information, the WCRC contains companion training programs that enable nurses, nursing assistants and other staff who work directly with care facility residents to improve or reinforce their clinical knowledge. The modules include mechanisms for self-evaluation, as well as discussion questions, examples and case studies, all of which are designed to help users apply their knowledge. “The website has been used by staff to gain specific information about particular conditions, to update policies and procedures, and to help staff work through the assessment process to determine specific resident needs,” says Stegemann.

The site also includes guidelines from the American Medical Directors Association. Sponsored by the Wisconsin Health Care Association and the Wisconsin Association of Homes & Services for the Aging, WCRC is available to all members of the two organizations—or most Wisconsin nursing homes.

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